Enter the Wagon
Yesterday evening I pulled into Stromsburg, Nebraska after 7-1/2 hours of driving, twice my self-alotted amount. That’s because after a hot, moist evening at the Iowa I-80 “World’s Largest” Truck Stop, I knew it’d be the same deal at a highway rest stop near Casey, Iowa the next night. On the face of it, I-80 Truck Stop is fab. They’ve got roomy pull-throughs to get automotive diesel, a decent sit-down restaurant and a fast food place, all the truck-related geegaws you could ever hope to see, convenience store, clothing counter, electronics counter…heck, they’ve even got a selection of raccoon hats just like Disney’s Dan’l Boone wore in the 1950s TV series! And the separate pull-through RV area away from the trucks is fairly rare to find at a truck stop.
But as an RV overnight spot, it’s still an all-night-noise truck stop. The RV slots are so narrow that 8-1/2 foot wide rigs like mine just skin through, an especially difficult task because the curved approach is often choked with overflow vehicles. Many RV drivers can’t cope with it, and wind up cutting down the limited number of spaces. At best, it’s a bad idea to leave folding doorsteps down or incautiously open doors.
I knew it would again be a hot day, and began early in the next day’s drive to think about the shade tree campground in Stromsburg Nebraska, a free city campground that offers electrical power and dump station. Though some 20 miles north of I-80, I figured it’d be worth it. What caught me by surprise was, rolling in at 7:30 PM Saturday, it appeared full of locals! One lap around showed one otherwise unused space occupied by a lone minivan, straddling a double-width space. Turned out to be a visiting guest of an elderly couple in a Mini-Winnie motorhome. They seemed a little imposed upon to move it somewhere else, as they had quite a gathering going on, but I was in no mood to do anything but graciously persist at best: long day, no nearby alternate areas known. The camper on my other side, a working guy with lots of kids and visitors had also packed an adjoining slot with extra vehicles, and quickly jumped up to offer to clear that space for me. But I had my eye on the lonely van, and he, unbidden, helped me back into the newly-cleared space. Only one or two spots here are big enough for the Defiant’s magnificent new 55-foot length (thanks to the bike rack now hanging off the front end), so I had to unhitch. Oh, the peace and quiet. And being that late in the day, the heat had died down to merely “Sweaty but Survivable”.
I find myself on a quest for coolness this trip, probably because I won’t find any once I arrive at Bonneville. So tomorrow, I’ll survive 8 hours of driving to get to Medicine Bow – Routt National Forest in Wyoming. That’s an excessively scenic spot at some 8,000′ elevation, which will means temperatures in the low 70s. This is good for me. But the weather will be bad, with persistent rain for several days, so the campsite I used last year will be a mud pit. Finding a workable spot for the Defiant there may be a challenge, as it doesn’t seem to be geared for larger rigs. Unless I feel like riding the e-bike in the pouring rain, I may have to find a spot the old-fashioned way. I can stay there one night or three, depending on whim. The next stop in Green River will be about 80 degrees, and is a place with inspiring views and wild horses in view, virtually guaranteed. By the way, actual on-location temperatures are invariably five or so degrees warmer than predicted whenever the sun is out. And it feels like it.
The concern on this trip has centered around the Mighty Furd, which is flashing little dollar signs on its message center LCD as I drive along. That began on Day 1 of the trip. More specifically, it says “TRAILER BRAKE MODULE FAULT” which almost certainly means that a board has gone bad and it needs diagnosis at a Furd dealership to see if it took anything else with it or had a deliberate cause. The trailer brake controller applies the Innsbruck’s electric brakes and, and as the Ford manual states, this fault still makes them work, sorta, but the brake controller’s functionality is impaired. Seems fine to me.
Day 2 brought more of that but another error message, “TRAILER WIRING PROBLEM”. Oh my. That little missive appears frequently but irregularly, without any discernible pattern. It indicates that there may be a short circuit in the trailer, perhaps from an insulation sheath being worn though at a passthrough. The fact that it’s intermittent makes it particularly unwelcome, because that makes it much more difficult to locate and fix. My hope, actually, is that the bad module is now displaying false alarms, because a short appearing a day later in the trailer’s wiring is just too coincidental for my taste.
Neither issue can be fixed along the way until I get to Parker, Arizona, 30 miles north of Quartzsite, in mid-October. There’s a decent Ford dealership there, and a potential place to drop the trailer and camp a couple miles away as needs be, to wait the process out.
But wait – there’s more! I finally went into the Iowa I-80 Truck Museum, which is in the truck stop complex. It’s free, so it was an easy decision. Below are just a few of the many vehicles in there.
There are many more neat trucks in the museum, but my time is at a close for this post, so I’m choppin’ it off here!